Manning MacDonald McNeil’s Mistake

Stephen McNeil is wrong to defend vacations during the sessions of the Legislature.

Stephen McNeil is wrong to defend vacations during the sessions of the Legislature.

The embarrassing attendance record in the legislature of Manning MacDonald these past 4 years fell to Stephen McNeil to correct. McNeil did nothing. And so Manning MacDonald went on vacation to Florida for the month of April as the 2013 Spring Session began. And when it finally became a political issue for Stephen McNeil, he defended Manning MacDonald’s Florida trip.

What should Stephen McNeil have done?

1. Demand Manning MacDonald show up to work in the Legislature.

2. If Manning refused to sit in his place in the Legislature, toss him out of Caucus.

Tory MLA Chris d’Entremont is right to criticize Stephen McNeil as he stood by, and now defends, the prolonged vacation by the Liberal MLA.

Chris d’Entremont:

“Leaders expect their MLAs to show up for work. Why is it ok with Stephen McNeil for one of his Liberal MLAs to take a month-long Florida vacation during the Legislative session? That is not leadership and Nova Scotians deserve better.”

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Go on take the money and run

Chris d'Entremont does on the attack over Liberal trust funds.

Chris d’Entremont goes on the attack over Stephen McNeil and the Liberal trust funds.

Argyle PC MLA Chris d’Entremont went on the attack this week, saying Stephen McNeil must come clean about the $2.3 million tainted Liberal trust fund money.

In a press release, d’Entremont said: “The biggest test of Stephen McNeil’s leadership was deciding what to do with the tainted Liberal trust fund money, but instead of washing his hands of it, he continues to hide the details… It’s time for McNeil to release all the details regarding the tainted money, including the constitution of the trust, and clean-up the Party bank account to where it should be, without ever having had the tainted trust fund money around to pay for expenses.”

In a discussion about a bill about government transparency, d’Entremont explained exactly what he wanted to see from the Liberal leader:

The one big decision that the member for Annapolis had to do as Leader, the one test that Nova Scotians can look at to see if he’s fit to be a Premier, was whether to use the tainted trust funds his leadership inherited from the dark days of previous Liberal regimes. Instead, by all appearances he chose to use the money – money over principle. Instead of coming clean with Nova Scotians and saying we have ample grounds to suspect some or all of this money came from tollgating, he chose to allow his Party to use the trust money; instead of being transparent and saying we’re just going to use it, the current Leader allowed the money to flow until it was pried from his grasp; and instead of being transparent and just admitting he was being used, they created a web involving internally restricted funds.

If they hadn’t had the use of those trust funds for all those years, how, without huge borrowing, could the Liberals have spent money on expensive advertising and polling? Not just before they were forced to get rid of the fund, Madam Speaker, even in the last year, because of the shape of their books today, would be vastly different if the Liberal Leader had to decide they would have nothing to do with that money.

Who did they transfer the funds to? Name names. In specifics, who are the current trustees or directors who control the money, and what ties have they had with the Liberal Party over the years? Because Nova Scotians will want to be able to see and judge whether the money has been put out of the reach of the Liberals.

Disclose who paid for any part of the bill, for the polling, for the research and advertising done, since they were forced to give up the funds…

Maybe that trust fund on the side is doing some polling for them; maybe they’re doing some advertising for them. We don’t know, because they won’t tell us.

The press are loathe to report on the Liberal’s trust fund. Perhaps speeches like Chris d’Entremont’s will encourage some investigative journalism.

We welcome any Liberal MLA to email us a rebuttal to d’Entremont’s comments.

The Bees’ Knees – Prizes for Week One

Each week the Legislature is in session we’ll give out four prizes for the best and worst moments, as recorded in Hansard.

Killer Bee

During a series of questions about Muskrat Falls by Liberal MLA Andrew Younger, including the cost of energy imports from Hydro-Quebec, the Energy Minister gave a nod to the NDP’s new commercial ‘Ask Newfoundlanders’ about the Liberal’s pledge to buy power needed to meet renewable energy targets from the 4th largest energy utility in the world.

Charlie Parker: Mr. Speaker, I guess the honourable member probably has a better direct line to Hydro-Québec than others would have.

The quip wins Pictou West MLA Charlie Parker this week’s Killer Bee prize.

Bumble Bee

When the NDP recently announced they would be introducing tougher animal care laws, the SPCA and others applauded them. But not everyone cheered. The Liberal Caucus Office’s Director of Communication took to Twitter say legislation is not needed to deal with those who abuse animals. Disturbingly, the staffer went on to say the NDP was “screwing the pooch” on the issue, a bad choice of phrase considering the topic.

In Question Period, Kings West Liberal MLA Leo Glavine was more careful in his choice of words when questioning of NDP Agriculture Minister John MacDonell. However, Glavine too said legislation wasn’t needed.

This misstep by the Liberals further illustrates a fog of negativity that seems to have blinded that party. Just because you are the Official Opposition, does not mean you need to oppose everything.

Honey Bee

While most observers said the buzz words from Darrell Dexter’s Speech From The Throne last week were “turning the corner”, we preferred the repeated phrase “for the first time”. Gathered together in one speech, the NDP have quite a record of “firsts”.

For such a positive speech, without even a modest attack on the opposition, Darrell Dexter wins this week’s Honey Bee prize.

Honey Bee #2

Normally, we give a Drone of the Week award, but this week in the Legislature was quite spirited, with little nonsense. And MLA Chris d’Entremont had his best week in years – we felt he was also deserving of a Honey Bee prize.

We’ve posted d’Entremont’s questions about the Liberal trust fund here, but he showed he is more than willing to hit back against Stephen McNeil on policies too:

Chris d’Entremont: You know, the Liberals take the cake. While the Liberal Leader has no original ideas, only they could take a failed idea from one province and make it the centrepiece of their energy policy. In fact, it takes a special kind of talent to borrow a policy from another place that abandoned it because it was proven to drive up rates and impede the move to cleaner energy at the same time.

While we think the Conservatives’ promise to freeze rates hard to believe (how much will that cost the government?), d’Entremont is right to raise concerns about the Liberal’s commercial-sized plan on energy.

The Bees’ Knees – Prizes for Week 6

Each week the Legislature is in session we’ll give out four prizes for the best and worst moments, as recorded in Hansard.

Bumble Bee:

A point of order raised by Liberal Andrew Younger received a thorough smack-down by Speaker Gordie Gosse this week, winning Younger this week’s Bumble Bee prize for the error prone.

Gordie Gosse: The member for Dartmouth East (Younger) suggested that because the Department of Finance “. . . sets the estimates for all other departments . . .”, in his words, questions can be asked of the Minister of Finance in Question Period with respect to all departments of government.

I have had research carried out by the Clerk’s Office and I am advised that nothing could be found to support such a proposition

At this point I would like to caution all members that while I am generally not inclined to intervene on the subject matter of questions asked by members, I think there have been some cases lately of questions that have begun to cross the line into becoming unparliamentary.

We appreciate the work Gosse is doing to create the right tone in the legislature. During Question Period, Opposition MLAs ask Ministers about their Departments, not whether they ate three-day old macaroni (an actual question from last week’s Question Period).

Drone of the Week

1 drone noun \drōn\
a stingless bee that does not gather nectar or pollen

2 drone intransitive verb \drōn\
to talk in a persistently dull or monotonous tone

We don’t know if Alfie MacLeod will run again or retire when next year’s election is called, but his short memory when it comes to his Conservative government’s advertising make for softball questions for the government. Government ads are government ads, not political ads. Alfie MacLeod wins this week’s Drone of the Week prize.

Alfie MacLeod: When will the Minister of Communications Nova Scotia stop trying to hoodwink Nova Scotians with their own money and put an end to the NDP propaganda plan?

Frank Corbett: Let’s start with a quote then I’ll delve in, a quote from the member for Argyle (Chris D’Entremont), “I don’t think government as a whole does a good job of (promotion). Not enough Nova Scotians know what kind of programs are out there. . . I don’t think we spend enough time explaining or advertising or getting those programs out there.” I will table that, Mr. Speaker.

They go on about the amount of money we spend. It’s 27 per cent less (than the Conservatives spent).

Killer Bee:

As NDP bill after NDP bill moved from Second Reading to Law Amendments on Monday with little comment from the opposition, NDP MLA  Howard Epstein opened his remarks on the Community Easements Act with a quip designed to jolt the opposition benches back to attention and won this week’s Killer Bee prize for the cheeky:

Howard Epstein: What an interesting and surprising afternoon it has been. I don’t know if I can remember when we saw so many government bills go through so quickly in such a short time. I’m not sure if this is because the Opposition has decided that they want to set records and they thought they’ve found themselves in a race or whether, surprisingly, they have suddenly found themselves in agreement with the government’s agenda. (Interruptions)

Honey Bee:

Winning his second prize this week, Howard Epstein’s comments on the Community Easements Act did everything a government’s MLA should do. He explained the bill the opposition MLAs who don’t understand the law, and explained to the journalists watching why the bill is newsworthy. Howard wins this week’s Honey Bee prize for good work. Read on. This is a good bill, and worth your time.

Howard Epstein: Perhaps I’ll just jump immediately to the point that the honourable member for Dartmouth East (Andrew Younger) raised a moment ago, since he seemed particularly focused on the issue of whether the legislation is necessary at all. He seemed to be under the impression that easements of exactly the kind that are being provided for in this bill are able to be established through the existing legal regime, essentially through contractual arrangements… I want to say to the member that he should really be aware that the problem of easements is a complex area of law

It’s very easy to put your foot amiss when it comes to the problem of who is entitled to a valid legal easement. That’s why it is that it makes sense to have a clear statutory framework that engages with this issue. It’s why it is that it makes sense that if we are interested in establishing community easements that we have a bill that resolves any of these legal questions. The whole point is to avoid the possibility of lawsuits…

Even if you could imagine a set of circumstances in which the community members were able to win such a lawsuit and establish a right of way, the owner will not have been compensated. The owner won’t have been paid anything. If a long-standing usage emerges and can be proven, the inhibition on the original owner’s land arises and has been established through court action, but no payment is made.

What we’ve done here is fashion a piece of legislation that provides the opportunity for individuals and groups and communities to negotiate with each other a financial arrangement designed to achieve what the group sees as a desirable result and which becomes acceptable to the owner of the land. We need a legal framework in order to accomplish that…

We’re finding that now it’s still a robust, modern tool that we can reinvent without the complexities of triggering possible lawsuits. That’s what this bill does, that’s what the minister outlined when he explained to us what the bill was designed to do.

We can think of other regimes that are in place. In the United Kingdom there are what are called “right to roam” laws… No Canadian province has that… These have been in place for about five or six years now and essentially it allows non-owners to walk up and down, all over the coast of the United Kingdom and to walk across paths that go across the land of other people. They can’t light fires and they can’t interfere with crops and they can’t come too close to the home of someone, but if there’s open land, there’s a legislated right to roam…

We are beginning to engage with what are community interests and one of the ways we are engaging with community interests is this bill. So I’m very proud to say that, after looking at it, we have found a way to follow through on a specific promise that was made by the government and to do so in a very innovative way. I look forward to the opportunity to vote for it.